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Joining Harrison Smith as Teammates a Bit Surreal for Byron Murphy

EAGAN, Minn. – It still feels a little surreal to Byron Murphy, Jr., that he shares a locker room with Harrison Smith.

Murphy, whom the Vikings signed in free agency this spring, joined Smith on the practice fields Tuesday for the team's fourth Organized Team Activity practice session and spoke with reporters afterward.

"I just told him out there, I said, 'Man, it's crazy I'm your teammate,' " Murphy recounted. "Because when you see those guys that you used to watch growing up, it's like, 'Dang, I'm on the field with you?' "

For reference, when Smith was drafted by Minnesota 29th overall in 2012, Murphy was just 14 years old and finishing up his freshman year at Saguaro High School.

The cornerback said he experienced a similar feeling when he was drafted by Arizona in 2019 and got to play two seasons with eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson, who spent the past two seasons with Minnesota before joining Pittsburgh this offseason.

"Just to talk to [Harrison] and have his knowledge on the field is a blessing for us," Murphy said. "Obviously for the rookies, because they're here to learn stuff, so they better ask him all the questions.

"When it's time to get serious, [I can] ask him the questions, too – because I know he has the answer key for me," Murphy added.

Smith is happy to answer questions from younger players, whether they're asking about Twin Cities restaurants, or a defensive technique taught in the meeting room.

But 11 seasons under his belt or not, Smith continues to constantly learn all he can both on and off the field. He told media members this time of year offers a "good time to get back to the fundamentals," as well as pick the brain of new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.

"Obviously we're learning some new stuff on defense, and you get to know your teammates pretty well; there's always new faces. Get to know the new coaches," Smith said. "Learn how to speak the same type of verbiage. And then get after it on the football field. Kind of instill those things in our DNA – sprint to the ball, communication. Start from the ground up.

"This is a great time because – I don't want to say it's stress-free, because there's always stress to perform well, no matter what time of year it is – but it's lower stress than having a game in a couple days," Smith later added. "So learning the fundamentals and expanding from there. And along with that, learning your teammates and how to communicate with guys. … Sometimes it's more natural with some and you've got to work on it with others, and you've got to work on yourself. If you're doing enough, things will [work out]."

Asked his favorite aspect of Flores' defense thus far, Smith noted the system's aggressive nature and the ownership players are given.

"It obviously starts with him, but we learn some things and then we can go from there and adjust," Smith said.

The safety isn't one to give away too much through facial expression, but he cracked a subtle smile before adding: "I think it's going to be fun … I think we're gonna have a good time."

Murphy echoed, saying he "definitely" likes the intensity already shown by Minnesota's defense.

"As a DB, you want to get some blitzes, too. You want to go get some tackles, too," he said. "But the thing for us also, as a DB, when those blitzes and stuff happen, you know the ball is coming out fast, so it's time for us to go out there and make those plays."

View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on May 30 at the TCO Performance Center.

Flores has been moving Murphy around within the defense, and the cornerback said it's been key to fully understand his role and assignment in each spot.

"That's how you learn better and quicker," he said.

"All of us, speaking for myself and the team, I think he's a great coach," Murphy said of Flores. "He came in here to bring the fire on the defense."